A down-on-his-luck alt-country singer gets another shot at stardom—if he really wants it.
Lee’s (The Collective, 2012, etc.) evocative descriptions of the inner lives of ordinary men and women are subtly devastating. Here he returns to his fictional hamlet of Rosarita Bay, a sleepy beach town in California loosely modeled on Half Moon Bay. This is the story of a country singer who can’t quite get his blues out from under his skin. Yadin Park was once a well-respected singer/songwriter who, after suffering bankruptcy and being diagnosed with a disease crippling his hearing, has been reduced to working as a carpet installer. He’s also in a half-hearted relationship with his boss’s daughter, Jeanette Matsuda. But as happens, over the course of a few weeks, everything changes. For Yadin, it’s the reappearance of his old flame and singing partner Mallory Wicks, a once-hot Nashville sensation whose star is fading. It’s a bit as if Gram Parsons had sobered up and flamed out and Emmylou Harris dropped into town for a visit. Jeanette is a housekeeper at the ritzy resort where Mallory is staying but is also flirting with her pastor on the side. We soon learn that Yadin has secretly been recording a stripped-down album in his den: “Simple, quiet stuff,” he tells Mallory. “No frills, just slow, raw songs.” That description could just as well apply to Yadin’s life, which is upended when Mallory offers to sing backup and land him an album deal, all of which violates his original intentions. “He decided he would record this one last album, while he could still hear,” Lee writes. “Not as a comeback, not to try to revive his career, but as a coda, a valediction. A way to leave on his own terms, and say, I was here.” It’s not high drama, but as a sad, sweet portrait of a couple trying to come to terms with their own imperfections, it’s awfully compelling.
A forgiving portrayal of the risks inherent in asking what might have been.